This difficult task is necessary

Published 10:15 am Saturday, December 17, 2005

By Staff
My husband is the director of the United Way of Greater Niles. Living with him allows me an inside view of what it means to have a job where you go to work every day and ask people for money. I also see the tension, stress and disappointment that is a side effect of the negativity that is encountered in that line of work.
This has been a year of circumstance, not always favorable, such as the Katrina disaster. Niles is building a new YMCA, a positive thing for us all, and maybe a new high school. We have closed a police department. We have loved ones in a war. Churches are in the depths of their stewardship programs. Now the Salvation Army is ringing the bell. And the tax bills were just sent out. It seems the whole world has its hand out for something.
Our United Way is also in the heart of its annual campaign, a campaign that benefits and touches the lives of many. In a community the size of ours, every nickel counts. A dollar here and there multiplied times a year begins to add up to a meaningful sum that just might help someone you know. Niles, (my favorite place in the world) should never discredit its ability and its assets and resources to make things happen. We have more companies and caring people that can accomplish whatever they are focused on than most. We just need to create opportunities.
The average person here in Niles, with all of the financial demands in life, is not in the position to make a substantial donation to anything. It just boils down to that. I know in our home, we give to our church monthly and have our charitable contributions, payroll deducted each week. We can afford it that way. If we had to write out one large check it would just never happen. So-like others, we might turn our heads and decline altogether. And in the end, everybody would lose. With a payroll contribution, I never even miss the few dollars and yet I am helping someone, plus it is a tax deduction.
My husband has a favorite saying. Perception is reality. My perception of the United Way was not a very good one until years ago Rob Habicht, the director at that time, came to the company I was then employed at, with the intent of doing an employee educational presentation. To tell the people, like me, who worked there, who might not have otherwise ever had a chance to learn about the United Way, all the good things they do, how many agencies they assist, and so on. The owner declined. It was a waste of “good productive” work time. Not even on lunch hours. Drop off brochures-we'll handle it ourselves. Well-of course as soon as Rob left-the brochures went right into the waste basket and there was nothing passed out. Rob invited me to volunteer on my own time and learn about the organization. I did and become aware of all of the great things they do and how the operation was run and the board that convened to make carefully thought-out decisions. How the money was allocated, stayed here in our local area-not shipped off somewhere unknown, but right here in Niles. I went back to work and was able to convince the owner to let me have a couple of meetings. Not surprisingly, several employees signed up for the payroll deduction plan. They could afford the buck a week, less than the price of a coke. Perception had changed with a little education.
I now work at Fifth Third Bank, an employer who actively encourages payroll deduction for its employees to give to the United WAy. It allows me to not be humiliated that my small check is too little to give. It allows me to give more than I could have otherwise. They provide me the opportunity to help others, right here in Niles.
I am extending a heartfelt plea that all of the employers in Niles that have refused to allow a United Way presentation to be done at their company this year, please reconsider. Why not create that opportunity to educate and change someone's perception for the betterment of other folks right here at home. What is the worst that could result? Your company could be a vehicle for helping others? And the employees could be a part of a greater whole. Niles needs all of the nickels that turn into dollars that turn into hundreds. We need your help to get this job done, employers. Think about it.
I encourage everyone to reach out and help someone lesser than yourself this holiday season. The reward are indefinite. Kudos to John Stauffer for accepting the challenges of a charitable organization. And may we all experience the grace of God in the upcoming year.